Organisation - March 10, 2016

Column: Social side effects

There is a story behind every foodstuff. Every foodstuff should therefore come with its own leaflet telling us about its primary and side effects. Just like the ones you get with medicines and financial products, but then including effects on society.

If you buy standard milk, you are buying a product of increasingly controversial quality. This drink is calcium-rich, but the proportions of omega fatty acids it contains could be better and if the story about A2 milk is true, it is a bomb under the health claims made for milk. But apart from that: every time you buy standard milk you stimulate the pollution of surface water, drive farmers deeper into debt, fill the air with more greenhouse gases, give the godwit and the lapwing even less chance of hatching out eggs, give cows even shorter lifespans and cause the deaths of ‘superfluous’ bull calves. We euphemistically call it euthanasia but it is simply killing calves because they are not profitable.


Since the abolition of the milk quota in April 2015, dairy farmers have enlarged their herds, with all the disadvantages that entails. The only beneficiary is FrieslandCampina. Overproduction pushes down the purchasing price, while the retail price stays the same. 2015 was the firm’s best year ever! But they do admit to mixed feelings about it. With so many wise men and women at our WUR, the best university in the Netherlands for 11 years now, can we really not design a more sustainable milk production system?

Kees van Veluw (57) teaches Permaculture and is active in organic agriculture networks. His vision stems from his work with African farmers, his networks with Dutch farmers, his family life with his wife, three sons, dog and chickens.